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BJP in a spot over fourth candidate

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 3: The BJP state unit is in a catch-22 situation on the issue of supporting ace sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra in the Rajya Sabha election.

The BJP legislature party that met today to take a decision on the issue said the legislator would do whatever the party’s central parliamentary board decided.

While the central leadership is said to be against sending a Congress candidate, the local unit is opposed to the BJD-sponsored Independent candidate Mohapatra for obvious political reasons.

“How can we forget that the BJD had ditched us just ahead of the 2009 general elections? As some leaders want to revive their ties with the BJD and to keep its supremo Naveen Patnaik in good humour, the decision on this issue has become a tricky one,” said a senior BJP leader.

Five candidates are contesting for four Rajya Sabha seats. While the win of three BJD official candidates — Kalpataru Das, Sarojini Hembram and A.U. Singh Deo — has become almost certain as it has the required number of first-preference votes, the contest for the fourth seat remains open. The election will be held on February 7.

But, no party has the required number of first-preference votes (30) in the 147-member Assembly to elect the fourth candidate to the Upper House on its own strength. BJD-backed Mohapatra and Congress candidate Ranjib Biswal are locking horns for the fourth seat. While BJD has only 18 surplus votes for Mohapatra, Biswal is short of three votes.

In this context, the BJP’s six votes will play a decisive role in deciding the fourth seat. BJP leader Jaynarayan Mishra said: “We have sent our recommendation to the Parliamentary Board for its consideration. We will make our stand clear after the approval of the board.”

Mishra, who had earlier taken a stiff stand not to vote for Mohapatra, did not want to make things clear on this issue today. On January 29, Mishra had told The Telegraph that they would not vote for Mohapatra and make their stand clear on February 3. Even the party’s state unit president K.V. Singh Deo had said the party legislators would decide their stand on this issue today.

Singh Deo said: “Please, don’t ask me anything today. It is the party’s Parliamentary Board that would take a call on this issue.”

In a yet another development, the BJP’s suspended MLA Bhimsen Choudhury said: “I will not abide by the party’s whip. I will vote as per my conscience. I will vote for a person, who can make significant contribution to the cause of Odisha.”

Independent MLA George Tirkey said he would take a decision on the issue later on. “I am opposed to both the BJD and the Congress,” Tirkey said.